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The Idol of “Pragmatic Ministry”

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Devotional Thought of the Day

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them
. Acts 16:9-10

Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.

In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”

In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.

In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.

Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.

One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.

I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.

Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.

Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…

Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.

So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.


A Metric for Church Leaders/Evaluating our Ministries

Devotional Thought of the Day

22 “And now I am bound by the Spirit* to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. 25 “And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. 26 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,* 27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.  28 “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood*—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.  Acts 20:22–28  NLT

10 9. We must learn about Christ from the Holy Gospel alone, which clearly testifies that “God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32), and that he does not want anyone to perish (Ezek. 33:11; 18:23), but that everyone should repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:2).

As most pastors do, I regularly get letters and packets, the “best advice” that I will ever hear.  Or invitations to pastors conferences guaranteed to change my ministry.I have to wonder if they share the standard of the apostle Paul, as he writes,

..my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

and

I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,

When churches are tasked with evaluating their ministries, there is some metric, some measuring standard that is to be used.  The end result of that standard is a mission statement, and a core list of values, and a general direction for the ministries of a church.  Consultants and coaches are often the givers of guidance, as our national and even international leaders.

But I wonder if these words from Paul, as he seems to realize his days of ministry are coming to a close part of the consideration of whether a pastor,  a teacher, an elder, a parish or even an entire denomination can be content with their work?

Go back through the readings above, hear the Lord asking you if you measure up to these standards.

You may think I am going to give my super secret way of getting to that level of maturity, my 6 plans or some cute five letter acronym to remember to motivate you to do God’s work.  I don’t.

My advice?

Spend more time in God’s presence. Receive the Lord’s Supper more, contemplate the cross and your baptism more. Spend time being relieved of your sin, confessing and being absolved of it Find ways to know and revel in this simple truth.

The Lord is With You.

It is from there, from knowing God’s heart because His love has been shown to you – that is where the desire for ministry comes from, that is from where the dunamis  power and ability comes.  If you want you church to be able to follow Paul’s  guidance, do the same. Feed them the word and sacraments that confirm the covenant, the declaration that they are His people.

Be sure that the Holy Spirit will work through you, and open your hearts and hands to do so.

And rejoice, for they will reach the measure of the fulness of Christ… for that is why you were called. And know this, He won’t abandon you forsake you – for that too is a promise.

AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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